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taking cuttings

If money grew on trees then we gardeners would live like kings. It doesn’t, unfortunately, but there are many brilliant ways to get the garden you want without shelling out huge sums, and taking cuttings is one of them.

rose-cutting

Taking cuttings from your current plants is a superb way to increase your garden stock for no cost at all. It’s a brilliant way to boost your garden plants, as well as pruning and neatening up your garden as you go.

And you don’t need any special equipment – it’s cheap, easy and effective, and you could even share your cuttings with friends and family, to help them save on gardening costs too.

Before you start, make sure you know what type of plant you’re working with.

Hardwoods are generally flowering plants such as rose bushes, and softwoods are more often evergreen shrubs with softer branches. In summer, you can take cuttings from tender perennials and shrubs to propagate them. Then in autumn and early winter, you can add hardwood cuttings to your bounty.  By next year, you’ll have loads of extra plants, at very little cost.

You Will Need:

  Various sized pots and containers for your new plants

  Compost

  Coarse Horticultural Grit

  Secateurs

  Gardening gloves

  Hormone rooting powder or liquid

  Propagator (Or small wooden sticks and plastic bags)

taking-cuttings
pots-finished

The technique for taking cuttings varies slightly, depending on whether you are taking a cutting from a more tender perennial, a larger shrub, or a hardwood plant. To help you, I’ve written a quick and simple guide for each:

Tender Perennials

These are best taken in late summer, or early autumn. Garden favourites like fuchsias, petunias, salvias, verbenas, penstemons, pelargoniums, chrysanthemums and osteospermums all root quickly and easily.

Step One

First, prepare the pots or containers that the cuttings will go into. You need a gritty compost, so add coarse horticultural grit to multi-purpose compost. The grit helps with drainage, which will ensure your cuttings won’t rot.

pelargoniums

Tip:

 For best results, choose
healthy young growth that
hasn’t flowered this year.

Step Two

Cut the stem with a sharp pair of secateurs just below a leaf joint to make a cutting between 5cm and 10cm long.

Step Three

Strip off the leaves from the lower stem, leaving just one or two pairs on the top. Dip the end in hormone rooting power or liquid and insert it into the new pot, a few centimetres deep.

Step Four

Gently firm in the compost and water really well. Place the pots in a propagator, or push wooden stirring sticks into the soil around the cutting and cover with a plastic bag or hotel shower cap. (Pelargoniums don’t need a propagator).

Step Five

Place somewhere light but not in direct sunlight and ventilate a couple of times a week.

watering-cuttings
propagator

After six to ten weeks, when your cuttings have rooted, pot them on to larger containers. Overwinter them in the greenhouse or conservatory, and harden off in spring ready for planting out.

Shrubs

lavender

Most deciduous shrubs are happy for you to take cuttings. Hebe, choisya, lavender, hydrangea, rosemary and philadelphus all root well.

Step One

Prepare the pots as before. Take a cutting 7 to 10 cm long from a strong stem that hasn’t flowered this year. Cut just below a leaf joint and strip off all the leaves except the top pair.

Step Two

Dip the end in the hormone rooting powder or liquid and pot up as for tender perennials.

Step Three

Place in a propagator or cover as before and keep out of direct sunlight as they root. Remember to make sure that your cutting is not touching your plastic bag or the sides of the propagator at all.

propagator

Rosemary and Lavender

These two shrubs can be hard to root, so you can propagate them from heel cuttings.

Choose a side shoot that is growing from the main stem, roughly 10 to 15cm long. Instead of cutting, carefully tear it off, making sure it retains a small sliver of bark from the main stem, known as a ‘heel’.

Dip this in rooting hormone and treat as before.

heel-cuttings

Hardwood

These are best taken from September to mid-winter, just after leaf fall. Good candidates include roses, cornus, jasmine, deutzia, buddleja, weigela, forsythia and honeysuckle, plus fruit bushes like fig, blackberry and gooseberry.

Step One

Choose stems from this year’s growth that have become woody and fairly inflexible. They should be about as thick as a pencil. Use sharp secateurs to remove the soft growth at the tip. Cut stems just below a bud, around 15 to 30cm long.

honeysuckle

Step Two

Dip the end in hormone rooting powder and insert 12 – 15cm deep into a pot of gritty compost.

Step Three

Move to a coldframe or unheated greenhouse and keep well-watered. Or you can plant direct into a bed – prepare the soil by digging over and adding organic material. Push your spade in and wiggle it about to create a trench for the cuttings. Allow 10 to 15cm between cuttings and water in well.

rose-cutting
rose-cuttings-in-rooting-hormone-then-pot
planting-cuttings-in-bed

Hardwood cuttings should be ready to plant out the following autumn.

For a great guide on how to prune your trees and shrubs, check out this blog:

Autumn Pruning Guide


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